Palau to become the first country to ban toxic sunscreen to protect its reefs


Posted

November 02, 2018 12:27:23

Palau is set to become the first country in the world to ban certain reef-toxic sunscreens, a move the tiny Pacific island nation hopes will help protect its coral reefs.

Key points:

  • The ban is set to come into effect from the beginning of 2020
  • Certain chemicals in some sunscreens cause damage to corals
  • These chemicals can also be toxic to fish, sea urchins and macroalgae

It comes after a similar initiative in Hawaii, which became the first US state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two common chemicals in May.

Palau, east of the Philippines, has already banned chemical sunscreens from Jellyfish Lake, one the country’s most famous tourist attractions.

The ban will prevent sunscreens containing a range of damaging chemicals from being manufactured, imported or sold in Palau.

The Palau Government’s spokesperson Olkeriil Kazuo told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program that officials hope the restriction will stop gallons of sunscreen being absorbed into the ocean.

“If our most famous tour sites have four boats each hour, [and tourists] need at least one ounce of sunscreen to cover up, that can equate to a gallon every three hours,” Mr Kazuo said.

“Any given day, that would equate to three or five gallons of sunscreen into the ocean and Palau’s famous dive spots, snorkelling, biodiversity and coral.

“That, to the President and the Administration, is pollution.”

The Palau ban will take effect from January 1, 2020 and is part of Palau’s new Responsible Tourism Education Act.

Stores selling prohibited sunscreen will face fines of no more than US$1,000 ($1,387), and bottles will be confiscated from tourists upon entry into the country.

The legislation is part of a much wider attempt by the Government to protect its environment, particularly from tourists.

Craig Downs, executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, said there was increasing evidence that certain chemicals — particularly oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in many sunscreens — are harmful to coral.

“There’s almost a dozen scientific papers in the last two years that shows how these chemicals are toxic to corals, fish, sea urchins, macroalgae,” Dr Downs said.

“There’s also been almost a dozen papers that look at the concentration of these chemicals in the ocean, along coastal areas, along certain coral reefs.

“And the levels we’re seeing out in the environment are definitely toxic,” he said.

Dr Downs said if snorkellers and divers wanted to be more environmentally conscious, they could cover up and wear a sun shirt to reduce the amount of sunscreen they need to use.

Topics:

oceans-and-reefs,

skin-cancer,

diving,

environment,

world-politics,

palau,

pacific



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